Monday, October 26, 2015

Just a Phase

This one time, the youth group volunteered with an event they volunteer with every year.  (It's not really important which event.)  The number of volunteers to tasks was out of balance, in that when I arrived, they were awaiting a fresh batch of stuff to get started again but it was clear as more volunteers, but not as much stuff arrived that even when it did, there was going to be a balance issue.  I had suggested to one of the teens from our group perhaps they could help with one task, and she said that people had not been very open to their assistance, and so she was feeling particularly seventeen that day. 
Now, I have worked with this teen for a while, so I did know that this was not an excuse but a genuine response to that thing that happens when you know you have suggestions or input that could be useful if people would only listen.  (Sadly, this does not end when one's age no longer ends in teen.  But it does get better.) But it speaks to an interesting thing about our views of teens.  Absolutely, in our society, teens are in a particular phase where they explore all sorts of things, they are given more responsibility (um, well, sometimes) and yet are still treated as children.  It's a weird, awesome, scary, fascinating time.
But, the reality is, that, hopefully, a lot of this experimentation stuff continues on.  The list of things I have started (or re-started) doing since I was a teen include knitting, weaving (since abandoned), blogging, social networking, and pet owning. No one told me these things I was trying out were just a phase because of my age.  It's possible people were thinking that, and just didn't tell me.  No one also told me when I gave up weaving or car owning that, pfft, they knew I hadn't been committed.  (I have had some people worry about my lack of car-ness, they all seem relieved to know I have owned, but chose to give it up.  And have car-sharing membership.  But that's probably a whole other post.)
I told one person who said her choice to go vegan was being touted as just a phase to tell people, "So what?"  Because, seriously, even if it is/was just a phase, she wasn't demanding people cook special things for her, she was simply choosing not to eat certain things, and taking steps to make sure she got a balanced diet.  So, if after a time she came to the conclusion that this was not her her, so what.  When a co-worker decides to go on [insert name of current trendy diet here], people usually applaud.  And look, if people's concerns had been for this teen's health or this teen's food preparer's sanity, then that's one thing, but they were discounting her because of her age.  And that's ridiculous. 
Phases, one hopes, continue to happen throughout life.  And while sure, I could think of more things I tried in my youth, discounting people's commitment to such solely based on the age they start, is unneccessarily belittling.  So let's stop that.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Three Interesting Things

1. Author Katherine Locke (who BTW has a DC area set ballet series, I'm just saying) has a post about how the internet can be the safe space for some young people.
2. A look at the discussion around coconut products and the use of animals in retrieval.
3. Intriguing brownie chocolate chip cookie combo alert. (h/t HuffPo Hawaii)

Monday, October 19, 2015

7 Things About YA

So, it happened again.  Another day another person declaring that reading YA as an adult is limiting.  And while, part of me wants to not even bother to address the layers of ignorance embedded in such a statement, let's try this again. 
1. YA is not a genre, it's an age category.  (You could also argue it's a marketing thing, since many books get sold as adult in one country market, and YA or teen in another.)  This seems like a nitpicky note.  But it's not, because YA includes under it's umbrella contemporary, fantasy, magical realism, literary, and a zillion other genres and subgenres.  Contemporary books share among them a similar time/reality setting.  YA books share a similarity in age of main characters (and target audience, although you rarely see a book about an adult tagged as YA, you will see books that focus on teens show up on the adult shelves). 
2. Reading level is a consideration in books marketed to kids.  However, it's a huge disservice to assume that things that are targeted for earlier readers cannot address important things. 
3. Corollary to that is that this assumes all adults read at an adult reading level in the language that they are reading.
4. And the other corollary to that is that YA is often not considered to be a different reading level of most adult books.  While Lexile measures are only one measure, let's look here where they note that Diary of a Wimpy Kid has a higher Lexile measure than Grapes of Wrath. The Wimpy Kid series is considered middle grade.  Steinbeck is considered adult. 
5. It has often been argued that a mono-book diet of any kind is unhealthy.  And I can see some scenarios where that would be true.  Certainly things like the We Need Diverse Books campaign, and Book Riot's Read Harder challenge have encouraged readers to think outside some of their automatic reading habits.  And I think that's a great idea.  But, this is where we get back to point one, YA isn't a single genre, it is a huge umbrella that encompasses many things.  (You could, for example, hit almost all of the Book Riot Read Harder things reading YA.)  So, that's not really a mono-book diet unless you are only reading contemporary YA that takes place at boarding schools. Or something. 
6. Again, I feel like this is the kind of thing people who have read one of a thing, or maybe, gasp, two, say.  Because then they can say I totally have read some and they were fine but really, how could you read only that? 
7. The other thing I think we forget about adults is that in most cases reading is entertainment.  Sure, you can (and maybe should) seek entertainment that surprises, excites, and expands you. But, I don't like horror.  It does nothing for me.  I understand that there are all kinds of really great horror movies and books out there.  I am going to be giving them a pass because that is not my jam.  Given the wide, wide range of things out there, I am not lacking for entertainment.  But I don't think people who like and enjoy horror are missing out or should re-evaluate their choices.  I'm quite happy that there are people out there who enjoy and appreciate that.  I don't have to take a moral stance on their ability to appreciate something that doesn't work for me. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Three Interesting Things

1. This article takes on the stereotype that Asian immigrants are just naturally hardworking and looks at the policies that shifted the kind of Asians we find coming to North America
2. I really adore everything about this article looking at some Brasilian girls busting stereotypes playing soccer and stay for the report of the video chat with one the reporter's own soccer players.
3. I confess the Hip Hop Awards are not typically on my radar, unless they bring in some of the cast members from "Hamilton" to do a BET Cypher.  (Link leads to video that requires flash.)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Let's Talk Diversity Again

So, again, an author, this time an award winning picture books and YA novelist, said something silly about diversity.  So, first, a recap here, because I am going to paraphrase what was said, but, if you follow the link, not by much.  (Also, the book that inspired said silly author's ire was Myles E. Johnston's Large Fears which sounds great. Let's all go get that.)
So, hearing about this book getting praise for, among other things, representing a queer black boy for the young reader set, this author said, well, pfft (okay, I added the pfft) marginalized young people don't need more books, all the books are for everyone.  And when folks pointed out that having mirrors, ie, characters that look like you in some way, is really meaningful to people, especially to children, this author said pfft.  (Okay, I added the pfft.) This author said books don't need to be mirrors, there are news reports for people to find mirrors, books are just there to "teach you about the world". 
And then later, when many, many people let this author know that they disagreed with this point, she said that her next book was about a black boy in love with an adult native American woman. (It is unclear to me if this was to prove that she didn't only write white people or to prove she could come up with a premise that distilled into 140 characters sounded wildly problematic. 
But, so, let's unpack what this author was saying. 
Books are for everyone.  Yes, that's true.  I...don't think anyone was disagreeing with that. I have read books about white people, black people, brown people, Asians, Africans, Americans, Europeans, and people from places and countries that don't exist (yet).  I have read about upper class, lower class, and middle class people.  I have read about slaves and slaveholders.  I have read about heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals, cisgender, transgender, and genderfluid characters.  I have read about humans, rabbits, robots, elves, werewolves, and vampires.  I am some of those things.  I am not a lot of those things.  So, if the point was that good stories speak to everyone, sure.  But given the context of the statement, it's hard not to wonder if the subtext was, I shouldn't have to think about reflecting the world when I write, because that's too much pressure.  So, if I choose to leave out segments of the populations in my books, who cares, good books are for everyone. 
Now, it's maybe a tiny bit possible that the thing she meant to say was we shouldn't be like, yay, book about a queer black boy.  We should like books for being good.  (That isn't really at all what she said, but it's possible that maybe she meant that.  Deep down.) And I agree with that.  I agree that we shouldn't treat diverse books like vegetables.  You don't like books because they are diverse.  You like books because they tell a story you want or need to hear.  Now of course, if the story you needed or wanted to hear was about a queer black boy, well, the easiest way for you to find such a thing would be if people were able to point you to such a thing.  And look, the Library of Congress has been tagging books with various labels (gay, suicide, homeless, etc) for some time.  I get emails from book sellers that say since you liked that one book about teen bullying and depression, here's some more.  If you haven't been waiting on a book about a queer black boy, that's fine.  There are people who are.  Snarking on that gets a little like stalking the line for the midnight movie just to tell them the movie is probably stupid. 
And well, this idea that since you have written and are again writing about underrepresented characters, this means what?  Totally ignoring the problems of the premise, is the point that since you have written outside yourself that you couldn't possibly be racist?  Are you saying you have black character friends?  Or, are you saying that since you are writing characters of color, we're done and no one else needs to or is allowed to? 
Look, here's the deal.  It seems super ridiculously obvious, but I have not heard of one single author being told their story about middle class white people can't get published this year because we already had one of those.  If you don't want to write in a manner that reflects the diversity of the world, no one is making you.  And if you do, or are already doing it, then, I'm not sure why you would care if someone else does. 
Do I wish we lived in a world where writing a queer black boy wasn't unusual?  Hell yeah.  Just like I wish we didn't live in a world were people of certain sexualities weren't expected to announce it in some fashion. But that's not where we are yet.  Yes, as writers we should write the stories that speak to us.  But that means all of us. 
There are some wonderful other posts about this: 

Kaye M has an open letter to the author.

And Camryn Garrett offered a post about signs authors may be suffering from white privilege.

Celidhann over at Bibliodaze broke out some numbers about representation.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Three Interesting Things

1. A teen wrote a powerful essay on how we shame teens for living with technology differently.
2. This analysis comparing Disney sidekicks to rappers, is, well, not to be missed.
3. This interview with Ariana DeBose (whos is maybe in "Hamilton", no you're obsessed) and her girlfriend Jill Johnson is really just adorable.  That's all.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Guide to Fictional Amnesia

With another show on TV this year featuring a character with amnesia, I thought I would offer my subject matter expertise, garnered from extensive reading and watching of fictional characters experiencing amnesia.
1. Fictional characters with amnesia, often retain basic motor function memory, so can remember how to tie shoes and open doors, but not who they are or what's going on in their lives.
2. This means no matter how often you ask: What's your name?  What's your favorite food?  And so on.  They. Will. Not. Remember. 
3. In real life, most people, especially post head injury, only lose a few days or weeks preceding the injury.  There are rare cases of folks losing their entire identity or suppressing their identity due to a psychological fear.  As is often the case, these rarer scenarios are way overrepresented in fiction. 
4. If you are the fictional amnesiac, it is super helpful, if each time you do trigger a memory, you have an audible and/or physical reaction to such so that the characters around you know to immediately ask what's going on. 
5.  Also, as a fictional amnesiac, your memories will likely come in tiny yet misleading clips, that will only create a useful picture a few chapters or episodes down the line.  (This is a corrollary to the all ghosts and prophesies speak in code.)
6. Also, spoiler, you are usually in love with someone you don't remember.  They are usually not the person your amnesiac self is finding some, um, tingly feelings for. 
7. The good news is you are almost always a good person, or the amnesia teaches you to be a better person. And the people around you will be really thrilled.  (You know, after that one misleading clue causes you to briefly lose everyone.) However, if you are the central character of a show, you may be getting those memories slowly, with bigger revelations timed for sweeps. 

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Three Interesting Things

1. One police department decided to try a different tack with local drug users.
2. With a warning that this links to social media if you are somewhere such things are blocked, but one guy attempted an interesting approach to the problem of having a car that required proof of sobriety to start that involved a raccoon. (Okay fine, it's not true.  But it's funny to imagine. I'm glad no raccoons have been harmed.)
3. And a teenager built a stroller that worked for wheelchair users.  He hopes to apply for a patent.